By Emmanuel Umohinyang

That the National Assembly, despite its pride of place in our democracy, has been a major embarrassment to the nation on many occasions is not in doubt.

The unfortunate scenario did not start today, as the lawmaking arm of government has worn a toga of indecency many times, from administration to administration.

Neither the Senate nor the House of Representatives is immune of controversy, most of the time on issues bordering on corruption.

During the 16 years of democracy under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), many thought they had seen the worst of embarrassing drama.

Have you forgotten the Ghali Na’aba era when bags of cash were displayed on the floor of the House as bribe from the Presidency?

Do you remember the Patricia Etteh scandal, where the first female Speaker was hounded by the likes of Dino Melaye over alleged corruption?

There are damn too many filthy stories of criminality in that era that researchers would spend years to unravel, were they to do a review of that era. While all these lasted, lawmaking took the back seat and reason took fight from the chambers.

In the interim, all manner of antics, including tons of cash, were deployed to sway those who appeared to stay on the fence.

For instance, the now rested, highly respected Tell magazine, in the cause of its investigation, discovered that the cash displayed by Na’aba’s foot soldiers to nail President Olusegun Obasanjo were indeed from a commercial bank in Kano, where the former speaker hailed from.

Such is the level our lawmakers can descend to in the name of trying to show that they can do and undo anybody, no matter how highly placed.

Ask Funke Egbemode, former commissioner for Information in Osun State, who worked for Etteh then as a Spectral Adviser on Media.

Egbemode, who was more than convinced that her former boss committed no crime, rose to her defence, but the propaganda machinery of Etteh’s antagonists was too much for her to confront, and the former Speaker lost her seat to the rampaging army

Years later, those who planned that coup, using all the weapons in their arsenal, including blackmailing the National Assembly bureaucracy, have since begged Etteh.

The scenario has always taken the same shape, leadership after leadership, as lawmakers at the national level have always demonstrated that their interest is about themselves and themselves alone. Many have attributed the crises in the National Assembly to the unseen hands of the Presidency, especially during the Obasanjo administration, when we saw the Ebora Owu breath down the neck of the National Assembly.

So terrible was the situation that many considered the era a dark period in executive-legislative relations, as the National Assembly then kow-towed to the whims and caprices of the Presidency.

It was, therefore, unsurprising that the Senate under Obasanjo had three presidents of South-East extraction in quick succession.

Indeed, the late Chuba Okadigbo, fondly called the Oyi of Oyi, would never forget the humiliation he suffered under that dispensation.

So strong was OBJ that despite the fact that he operated under a democratic setting, many saw him as the three arms of government combined.

Related News

Unfortunately, the messy waters that the National Assembly found itself in cannot be divorced from lawmakers with inordinate ambition, corruption and a disdain for the rule of law, which they have sworn to uphold.

This could be clearly seen from every crisis that has engulfed either the House of Representatives or the Senate, as the clash of interests has never been about Nigeria, but primordial sentiments. Moreover, without prompting, both Senate and the House continue to wear the toga of rubber stamps, administration after administration, because they rarely uphold their independence.

Former Senate President Ahmad Lawan even told the world that the Senate under his leadership would approve any request brought by the former President. Today, the same Lawan is one of those criticizing the Ways and Means approved by the Senate under his leadership, which is currently under probe.

Even the dust generated by alleged padding of the 2024 budget by suspended Senator Abdul Ningi follows the same trajectory as we have eventually seen.

Using the alleged padding as a bait, the PDP chieftain and close ally of former Vice President Atiku Abnbakar, only tried to use the issue as a bait to discredit the budget and, by extension, the Presidency and the Senate.

As chairman of the influential Northern Senators Forum, his intention was to bring about a crisis between the North and the South, a strategy that has been deployed by politicians who take pride in dividing the country along tribal and religious lines.

However, Ningi’s odious and vexatious plans failed, as many of his colleagues from the North saw through his antics and the strategy was dead on arrival.

Recall that it was the same strategy that was deployed in the last general election but which met a brick wall through the support of northern governors who kicked against the plot. The Presidency under Senator Bola Tinubu deserves commendation for coming out and on time to deflate Ningi’s balloon of lies with facts and figures.

According to presidential spokesman, Bayo Onanuga, “contrary to the strange view expressed by Senator Ningi, there was no way the Senate could have debated  and passed a N25 trillion budget that was not presented to the National Assembly.

“We don’t expect a ranking senator not to pay due attention to details before making wild  claims.”

“On the uncharitable claim that the 2024 budget was anti-North, we found such position by Senator Ningi as too far-fetched and unbecoming of a leader of his status.”

The Senate needs to be commended for the mature manner it handled the matter by using facts and figures to puncture the lies peddled by Ningi in his BBC interview.

Partisanship, which has always been an issue, was set aside, even as the Northern Senators’ Forum

openly dissociated itself from Ningi’s despicable behaviour. However, I find the Senate President’s postulation that the allegation by Ningi has totally damaged the reputation of the Red Chamber laughable because it is either Senator Godswill Obot Akpabio is playing to the gallery not to have known that the National Assembly has no reputation before the moral public, not to talk about a reputation to be damaged. Senator Agom Jarigbe’s observation gives credence to the fact that the Senate did not do well in terms of distribution of constituency projects across the country, and this leaves much to be desired. The upper chamber also needs to abide by its own rules, as the three-month suspension of Ningi is a slap to the cherished values of the rule of law and is a mockery of the decision of courts in the Omo Agege and Ali Ndume case.

The challenge before the National Assembly, therefore, is to rise to the occasion by ensuring that it serves as the true voice of Nigerians, instead of being an appendage of the executive or other interests.

The Senate and the House of Representatives ought to be the conscience of the people but this National Assembly is nothing near the People’s Assembly. Rather it is an Assembly of characters that sends prayers to their email box while the people are asked to bear with the excruciating economic situation.

The Senate should arrest this unfortunate retrogression to indecency and rebrand itself by working truly for the people, instead of continuing to reel in the culture of impunity, corruption and lawlessness that seems to have become its second address. The Akpabio-led National Assembly must not eat the bone that was given to it to keep, as they were not elected to go and enjoy on behalf of poor Nigerians.

•Umohinyang, a public affairs analyist, wrote from Abuja